Sunday, November 28, 2010

Letting the Light Shine


They strolled right past us, unaware, canvas and paints in hands, headed further down the park's winding trail.  I wondered if they were painting for fun, or for a school project... if the teen boy and girl were just friends, or dating, or brother and sister... hard to tell. But my passing thoughts about the artistic couple were interrupted with catching Bran's frisbee. 
So about an hour later, walking back past us toward the parking lot, their canvases no longer fresh and white but now saturated with wet paint, we asked if they would show us their work. Six kids (mine and a couple of neighbors) crowded with me around the young pair. The teens offered hesitant smiles in revealing their art, timid humility mixed with the natural desire of any artist to share their work.
The dark-haired girl, who stood a couple of inches taller than the boy, revealed her painting of a large dark sphere with muted colors surrounding it and a fairly bright yellow center. She explained that it was a picture of the world, and that the darkness showed how we get choked out by things of the world. But even so, the light is trying to overcome the darkness.
The boy's canvas held a similar theme, but with a more impressionistic smearing of colors. He briefly described the strokes of dim color peeking out from beneath broad dark strokes as the loss of that childhood "light." He said his painting depicted how young children are filled with a bright light and enthusiasm and confidence that eventually becomes snuffed out by the world's darkness.
The young pair seemed to appreciate our interest, and we thanked them for taking the time to stop and talk with us (though one of my kids chided me, saying I was totally weird for interrupting the teens and asking about their artwork - whatever). But as we trekked up the hill and through our back gate, my thoughts pleaded against the threats of that darkness.
"Please, Lord, not these children! How do I protect them? How do You protect them? I don't want these little lights snuffed out!"
Even thinking about it a few days later, those canvases bothered me.
Bothered me because I think the artists were on to something.
I don't like the darkness, the world's choking measures. 
I want my children's creativity, enthusiasm, and confidence to grow with each passing year. I want them to thrive and bloom and discover purpose. It's my deepest desire, really, that intertwined in their relationships with the Lord and with bringing glory to Him in their time on this earth, that they would reflect His light. 

My friend Jennifer posted this quote last week, and I love it.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates other."
-Nelson Mandela, in his 1994 inaugural speech

Chew on that one for awhile. 
So this is what I want to build into my children - manifesting the glory of God that is within them, in a big way.  Mixed into the discipline, training, teaching, and correcting roles of motherhood, I want to be the one pushing them to the light, exposing their incredible strengths and giftings. My proudest moments as a parent have been watching my children do the things they love to do - performing on a stage, making a crazy catch at shortstop, singing into a toy microphone atop our marble coffee table, completing a tedious lego model, or even wrapping an arm around a sibling to offer comfort.
But really, it starts with me. It starts with Corbin and me living our lives in such a surrender to our creator, that He splashes vivid paints against our already color-splattered canvases, which in turn draws these little ones to want their Creator to splash color onto their not-yet-finished paintings. For the sake of our children, it begins in my heart, in both mine and Corbin's hearts. 

Lord, give me a bold spirit, a willingness to take risks. As I let my own light shine, I pray that my children will feel permission to do the same. Only you can make that happen!